Wednesday, October 3, 2007

my inner over-achiever is an effeminate man.

we decided that rachel's inner overachiever is a large burly man.
michael's inner overachiever is a voluptuous woman.
my inner overachiever is an effeminate man.

these personifications as applied to our collective overachievers seem to fit incredibly well, toward the nature of their effects on our styles of working. just an interesting moment in after-school thinking that pleases me because of the gender-bending aspect. (for context, these make particular sense when you consider our physical comportment...)

i've been thinking much about my sociology of gender class as i approach technology in the classroom these days, and many of the gendered ways that my students see and interact with technology (re: boys being the ones to help me or my mentor teacher by coming up to the front of the classroom and attempting to help us fix the overhead/computer/printer/AV equipment) and their roles in the classroom, as far as participation in discussions, handing out papers/materials (a "girl's job" as described by rick in 4th hour, though this particular gangsta 14 year old is self-assured enough to volunteer for it all the time. love him).

in middle school particularly, the presence of gender is incredibly flagrant sometimes -- from physical seats that students take in class (Barrie Thorne, Gender Play, Boys and Girls together, but mostly apart), to the roles and personalities of students within the classroom (i.e. louis taking the role of the "class clown" sometimes as he uses humor in a masculine attempt to devalue what we're reading as "stupid" and "girly" if it pertains to poetry/creative writing). It seems sometimes that the boys are afraid to admit that they understand, connect with a text or answer questions and prompts from the teacher, or will be more apt to make fun of a character, emotion or idea that is deemed by their peers as feminine, in order to place themselves directly in contrast and masculinize their presence vocally in the classroom. i'm also reminded of herbert kohl's book "i won't learn from you", and it's been years since i've read it, but specifically, willful not-learning as a statement of defiance, with regard to race and assimilation into dominant culture.

i think often about how English, as a subject in school, has been gendered as a class in which females are culturally expected to excel (especially in the creative sections) and males are culturally expected to disengage in English/Language Arts and excel in the science/math/computer realm. we talked about this extensively in our digital divide presentation a few weeks ago and i notice it also in how teachers can be gendered in the subject area they teach (many, but not all of course, English teachers are women). within my school, i also notice that there is a technology coordinator who is female and teaches computer classes, and a male computer teacher, who is often the person to whom questions about how the school network is configured are defaulted, even though ms. yglesias was the person to set-up the network.

anyway, these classes are intersecting in very interesting ways, and as we're looking at how children perform and are socialized into gender as they enter into school, and how students have agency in their own perceptions and performances of gender, but how their interactions (within a structural and cultural context) are integral in kids understanding their own gender and what "gender" means in their lives (run-on sentence, i'm aware). we're specifically looking at kids entering school (at 4 and 5 years old), though of course, i'm noticing how all of this is present and prevalent in my middle school students, very visibly in their bodies and interactions, as they're all dealing with becoming adults in a very stagnantly gendered society. what is their specific developmental stage and heavy peer-influenced interaction shaping in their minds as we speak? what notions of gender are they undoing and defying as they learn to interpret this new territory? what borders are they crossing to test the limits? i have so many questions for them.

and as always, you cannot divorce gender from the ways that race, ethnicity and class affect the lives of students... as what it means to become a Mexican-American woman in Detroit to my 8th graders is different from it means to become a Caucasian-American woman in Ann Arbor in 8th grade, and this process of understanding and emulating begins very early, though i have to say -- it is incredibly interesting to me to take a look at how socially reinforced some of these behaviors are, by both fellow students and teachers/administrators in the building.

just some thoughts...
xo
l

6 comments:

Gillian Drutchas said...

Hey Lauren-
I told a friend of one of my roomates who was staying with us a couple of weekends ago that I was in school to be a High School English teacher. As you know, I'm sure, that statement usually elicits some kind of interesting response from strangers. This one told me not to act like I hate the boys in class. Apparently, that was a real problem at his high school...Incidentally, he's trying to get into Med School, a Math/Science Boy.
The thing about that comment is that I think it's true beyond just this one person. My sister always commented that she knew her teachers would just love if she wrote about women in whatever literature she was reading because it is there favorite subject. And these are the teachers that have probably had the greatest influence on me as both student and fellow teacher!
On the other hand, perhaps I am more sensitive to the subject than most people. Being a graduate of a women's college, I was painfully aware that a class could not go by without having at least one class focusing on the unique role of women in whatever subject we were studying. An yet, at the end of the day, I find myself writing my 649 paper about gender differences in the classroom...so perhaps I'm just a perpetuating it all in the end.

Erdmann said...

Lauren,
My inner over-achiever is being silenced by MAC.
Actually, I wanted to address the topic of gender in terms of foreign language. At both of the schools I work at right now, there is only one male foreign language teacher. Actually, from my childhood, I don't remember it that differently. I remember that most of the FL teachers were female. To me, they were the teachers with flowy skirts and thick accents. They smelled of coffee and talked about parts of the world I could only imagine. I think it is interesting now to see which parts of my romanticized view I "try on" as a teacher and which ones I reject. For me, the image of that "role" was always a happy one and I see how I would probably naturally tend to perpetuate it...

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